Millions of Californian workers who immigrated to the US illegally could receive provisional status to remain living and working in the state, if a new bipartisan effort at immigration reform is accepted.
The compromise plan was announced Monday by a group of eight U.S. senators and immediately generated headlines for its forgiveness of undocumented workers who do not have criminal records and the new crackdowns that would be implemented, CNN Politics reported.
Border controls would be tightened—including the use of drones to patrol the US-Mexico border—and there would be more effort to prevent the hiring of undocumented workers.
The senators, in their proposal, said they aim "to secure the border, modernize and streamline our current legal immigration system, while creating a tough but fair legalization process for individuals who are currently here."
There were about 11.2 million undocumented immigrants in the US in 2010, 2.55 million of them in California, according to a Pew Research Hispanic report sourced by ABC News 10.
Conservative leaders have said they are trying to create a modern immigration system, as well as woo back Latino voters.
California Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, both Democrats, expressed support for the immigration overhaul, which was proposed by a group of four Democrats and four Republicans.
"The comprehensive framework outlined today by the bipartisan Senate working group is a major step forward in the effort to reform our broken immigration system," ABC News 10 quoted Feinstein as saying.
The new plan could be a boon to Bay Area businesses—especially tech companies looking to hire scientists and engineers—though some are questioning if foreign graduates with advanced degrees in fields like science and math should be given preference for green cards.
The reforms may help California farming communities, which wrestled with labor shortages in 2012.
“Farmers struggle to hire enough domestic employees, so they rely on foreign employees willing to harvest America’s food," California Farm Bureau Federation President Paul Wenger said. "Many of the people who tend to the food we eat are not properly documented. Reform of immigration laws should secure our borders and allow immigrants who are contributing to our communities to work in farming.”
The immigration reform package must first pass the Senate, then be considered by the House.
President Barack Obama is expected to unveil his immigration plan Tuesday in Las Vegas.
What are your thoughts? Is this a positive step toward fixing the U.S. immigration system?